How To Grow In Faith In 2017

Posted in Change, Church Growth, Faith, Fasting, New Year, Personal Growth, Prayer by PCraig on January 1, 2017

I want to encourage every Crossroads family member to take the following challenges in January to grow your faith like perhaps never before!

  • Begin reading the Bible everyday starting today. You can do this thru downloading and printing a reading plan to keep inside your Bible as a checklist. Another way is to purchase a One Year Bible and it will guide you through daily readings. Or, you can use the YouVersion Bible App and select a reading plan for 2017 to read from your phone, computer or other electronic device.
  • Attend church every Sunday for the next three weeks. We’re launching a new three-week series called PRAYING BOLDLY beginning January 8. For these three weeks you will learn how to pray more bold, powerful prayers that will literally change your life and relationship with God.
  • This is also a great time to invite friends, family and anyone who needs to grow in faith to be a guest at Crossroads. Be sure to carry the invite cards that are in the lobby to help you to share with others. These cards give our service times, location and web address so they have something in their hand after you’ve invited them.
  • Begin a 21-Day fast on January 8. Next weekend starts our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer. Powerful things happen when people fast and pray. If you would like to learn more on this topic, you can follow this link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/fasting-for-beginners. Just know that you don’t have to give up food only, there are other things that may have more of your time and life than what you place in your mouth. We’re going to believe God together for a spiritual breakthrough in our church, our families, our community and our country during these 21 days!

Don’t allow yourself to be left out of what God may want to do in your life this year! Get off to a great start by accepting this challenge and just see what God will do. I believe this could very well be the greatest year for our church and your life also. Get ready to be changed!

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God Help Us

Posted in Hope, Perspective, Prayer, Worry by PCraig on September 15, 2016

Is all the political action in America getting you nervous? One thing is for sure, come November 8, our nation will elect a new president. Every presidential election seems to come with drama, and this one has certainly had its share.

Here are some suggestions on how to pray at this time:

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 NIV

  • Pray all Christ-followers will put their faith ahead of their politics.
  • Pray that America will experience revival & spiritual awakening.
  • Pray for Christians and churches to share God’s love in a way that shines light to those in spiritual darkness.
  • Pray that the results of the elections will be pleasing to the Lord and result in His blessing over this nation.
  • Pray for physical protection over all candidates during this campaign.
  • Pray a strong hedge of protection over the nation for a safe and fair election.
  • Pray that those leading our nation will be drawn closer to Jesus each day and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

A PROMISE:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

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Running On Empty

Posted in Margin, Prayer, Purpose, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress, Victorious Living by PCraig on September 8, 2016

All kinds of information exists on breathing techniques for reducing stress. It seems most of us tend to breathe shallow and live pressurized lives. By breathing deeply through our nose, holding it for several seconds, then slowly releasing it out our mouths, heart rate and stress levels come down. So, you might try it and see what happens.

This got me thinking about how important it is to breathe in the experiences of life. How many of us just getting going in the morning and don’t stop until we hit the bed? God didn’t even do this. In creation, God set aside one day of the week to be a day of rest. In a culture that carries a device that is linked to the world in it’s hand, that is difficult for us to achieve.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Unplug for 15 minutes each morning to connect only with God. Read, pray, sing, meditate and establish connection. How your day begins has a lot to do with how it goes.
  • Set aside a few moments before you pull into the driveway and pray, “God, I’m about to go inside to people who need me to be present and a positive influence, help me to put all else aside to be what they need.”
  • Weekly orchestrate your schedule to attend a church service where you can recalibrate in worship, fellowship and discipleship.
  • Schedule monthly appointments with yourself that include getting away from the normal routine for a number of hours to ponder, pray and rest.
  • Annually take a day, or more if possible, to evaluate your life and the direction you are headed. Ask yourself, “Am I going toward my purpose?” If not, ask God to help you get in alignment with His purpose and create action steps for doing so.

What are some steps you currently take to reduce stress and realign your life to God’s purposes? If you can’t think of any, maybe try some of those I’ve suggested, or seek God to create your own. You can’t live a fully charged life while running on empty.

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21 Days of Prayer

Posted in Expectations, Faith, Fasting, Miracle, Prayer by PCraig on January 7, 2016

This Sunday will begin our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer.  As a church family, we are going to be believing God through prayer to change lives (starting with us), change situations, change our country, change conditions, and overall do incredible things that only He can do!

It is going to be a powerful time personally as each of us put aside what we want for what He wants.  Options for fasting could be doing a “Daniel Fast” (just Google it if you don’t know what it is), partial fast (give up meat, soda, or other addictive foods), fast one meal a day, or fast social media or TV (this might be hardest of all for some).

When we give up we go up!  Bondages and addictions can be broken, captives to sin can be set free, and miraculous moves of God take place.  You can’t out-give God, so if you put aside time to be with Him, instead of food, TV, social media and whatever else, then you can be assured of gaining His attention.

Don’t miss this chance to grow in your faith and relationship with God.  I’m believing for more than we could ask or think to break forth as we seek Him during this focused time of prayer.  Get ready!

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Getting Prepared For Thanksgiving

Before you load up the car and head over to spend time with friends & family eating, watching football, and possibly taking a nap (if you’re lucky), what else might you do to get prepared for Thanksgiving?  For some, it might be psyching yourself up for a new debate over an issue, getting set for another fight over the past, or watching other dysfunctional members remind you of why you don’t overly enjoy these gatherings.

But, as a follower of Christ, knowing there might be family present who aren’t believers, what might we do to prepare?

  • Pray, for you to say the right things, for them to be impacted and for the Holy Spirit to fill the house.
  • Listen, to all they are saying around the table.  Ask some questions to gain greater understanding and resist the temptation to “set them straight.”  This is true love in action.
  • Remember, it is only natural for people who don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord to act like they don’t.  Don’t allow yourself to be upset about their choices and lifestyles, rather, be sympathetic to their lost state of heart.
  • Obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting to share only what He tells you to share. Stay away from debates and focus more on how you have been impacted by God’s love and presence.
  • Leave the results of any sharing up to them and the Holy Spirit.  Don’t be discouraged if they don’t put down their pumpkin pie and ask how to be saved.  Sometimes you plant, other times you water and only God can control the harvest.

I hope you and I have an opportunity to be show and tell followers for Jesus this Thanksgiving.  Let’s be ready for more than just turkey, pie and football (and hopefully a nap).  May God show his light through us to our family and friends, giving us another real reason to be thankful.

I’m thankful for you!

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What God Might Be Saying

Posted in Faith, Hearing God, Personal Growth, Perspective, Prayer, Time, Will of God by PCraig on August 14, 2014

What is going on when you pray?  Have you ever wondered if anyone is listening or cares?  Sometimes it can feel like your prayers are being heard and other times it can seem like God is helping someone else.  Ever feel that way?

First of all, I would like to clarify that God does answer prayer, does care about each and every one of us and enjoys it when we pray.  (See 1 John 5:14-15; 1 Pet 5:7; Mt 11:28)  Second of all, prayer does make a difference.  Clinical studies have been done and found that people who are prayed for go through surgery more successfully, and have a better recovery than people who don’t have prayer.  I’ve seen this just from the way God answers prayer requests that are turned in on the weekend services.

To help those of you who struggle with what is going on behind the scenes when you pray, I have four options that might be happening.  God may be saying…

  • NO – now that’s not an answer we like, but it’s an option, because God knows what’s best, and we need to trust Him.  Your request could simply be off-base.
  • SLOW – the timing may not right for what you’re asking right now, so don’t get impatient.  Trust that God is working even when you don’t have evidence.
  • GROW – again, the request may be okay, but there needs to be some growth in you before God brings it into your life.  If you were praying for the right spouse, but you are not the right spouse material yet, then grow in the meantime.
  • GO – this is the answer we like best.  It’s when we are ready, circumstances around us are ready, and God is ready to bring it about.

Knowing that there are more answers than just “yes” and “no” helps me to analyze my situation and see if I need to do some adjusting.  I hope this helps you.

P.S.  Be sure to pray over our services this weekend when Phil Stacey from American Idol will be our guest.  It’s also part 2 of the Frames series and somebody must be praying really hard already, because last weekend was powerful.  Let’s believe for even greater anointing and results this weekend!

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Help For Weakness

Posted in Holy Spirit, Prayer, Victorious Living by PCraig on May 22, 2014

I was reading today how “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” in Romans 8:26.  Combine that with a book we’ve been reading as a staff and board called Overcoming The Dark Side Of Leadership by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima in which it discusses our “dark side” or weak areas.  This made me think all the more about personal weaknesses and how they impact us and what we can do about it.

Are you aware of yours?  Some are probably all too aware as you struggle to put down the drink, stay away from certain websites, keep your tongue in check or attempt to avoid skewing information to others in a deceptive way (lying).

We each have weaknesses and I guess the first step is to be aware of them so you can guard that area.  But, secondly, it’s good to know that the very Spirit of God is ready, willing and able to help us in our weakness.

One of the ways this passage tells us that the Spirit helps is in our prayer time.  Have you ever wondered how or what you should pray?  Like, “Do I pray for this job to happen or not?” or, “Should I pray that we break up or stay together?”  Sometimes we just don’t know what is best.  In those times, the Bible says that the Spirit intercedes for us.

I’m going to encourage you to read Romans 8 and ask the Spirit to do what is promised, and pray for you and through you.  This experience could be just what you need to help in your weakness and overcome!

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How To Fast

Posted in Fasting, Holy Spirit, New Year, Prayer by PCraig on December 18, 2013

Here’s some thoughts I’ve gleaned from the writings of Bill Bright on the topic of fasting as we get ready to begin the NEW YEAR with another time of fasting & prayer.

How to Begin Your Fast

 How you begin and conduct your fast will largely determine your success. By following these seven basic steps to fasting, you will make your time with the Lord more meaningful and spiritually rewarding.

STEP 1: Set Your Objective

Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify His leading and objectives for your prayer fast. This will enable you to pray more specifically and strategically.

Through fasting and prayer we humble ourselves before God so the Holy Spirit will stir our souls, awaken our churches, and heal our land according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. Make this a priority in your fasting.

STEP 2: Make Your Commitment

Pray about the kind of fast you should undertake. Jesus implied that all of His followers should fast (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14,15) For Him it was a matter of when believers would fast, not if they would do it. Before you fast, decide how long and what type of fast you will undertake.  I am challenging those who can to a 21 day fast.  There are many resources for a Daniel type of fast for 21 days.  Here’s some other things you could fast:  TV, Facebook or social media, shopping, or other potentially controlling things for 21 days (for some, these could be more difficult than food).

Making these commitments ahead of time will help you sustain your fast when physical temptations and life’s pressures tempt you to abandon it.

STEP 3: Prepare Yourself Spiritually

The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance. Unconfessed sin will hinder your prayers. Here are several things you can do to prepare your heart:

Ask God to help you make a comprehensive list of your sins.
Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Seek forgiveness from all whom you have offended, and forgive all who have hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3,4).
Make restitution as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit according to His command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14,15.
Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1,2).
Meditate on the attributes of God, His love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others (Psalm 48:9,10; 103:1-8,11-13).
Begin your time of fasting and prayer with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
Do not underestimate spiritual opposition. Satan sometimes intensifies the natural battle between body and spirit (Galatians 5:16,17).

STEP 4: Prepare Yourself Physically

Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Consult your physician first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Some persons should never fast without professional supervision.

The first two or three days are usually the hardest. As you continue to fast, you will likely experience a sense of well-being both physically and spiritually. However, should you feel hunger pains, increase your liquid intake.

STEP 5: Put Yourself on a Schedule

For maximum spiritual benefit, set aside ample time to be alone with the Lord. Listen for His leading. The more time you spend with Him, the more meaningful your fast will be.

When possible, begin and end each day on your knees with your spouse for a brief time of praise and thanksgiving to God. Longer periods of time with our Lord in prayer and study of His Word are often better spent alone.

A dietary routine is vital as well. Dr. Julio C. Ruibal – a nutritionist, pastor, and specialist in fasting and prayer – suggests a daily schedule and list of juices you may find useful and satisfying. Modify this schedule and the drinks you take to suit your circumstances and tastes.

When your designated time for fasting is finished, you will begin to eat again. But how you break your fast is extremely important for your physical and spiritual well-being.

STEP 6: End Your Fast Gradually

Begin eating gradually. Do not eat solid foods immediately after your fast. Suddenly reintroducing solid food to your stomach and digestive tract will likely have negative, even dangerous, consequences. Try several smaller meals or snacks each day. If you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will result in continued good health.

STEP 7: Expect Results

If you sincerely humble yourself before the Lord, repent, pray, and seek God’s face; if you consistently meditate on His Word, you will experience a heightened awareness of His presence (John 14:21). The Lord will give you fresh, new spiritual insights. Your confidence and faith in God will be strengthened. You will feel mentally, spiritually, and physically refreshed. You will see answers to your prayers.

A single fast, however, is not a spiritual cure-all. Just as we need fresh infillings of the Holy Spirit daily, we also need new times of fasting before God. A 24-hour fast each week has been greatly rewarding to many Christians.

It takes time to build your spiritual fasting muscles. If you fail to make it through your first fast, do not be discouraged. You may have tried to fast too long the first time out, or your may need to strengthen your understanding and resolve. As soon as possible, undertake another fast until you do succeed. God will honor you for your faithfulness.

I encourage you to join me in fasting and prayer to begin 2014.  May God help us to truly experience revival in our homes, our church, our nation, and throughout the world.

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Make A Difference

Posted in Dreams, Hearing God, Impact, Involvement, Prayer, Purpose, Used of God, Vision by PCraig on February 7, 2013

Over the past two weeks we’ve been looking at the story of Nehemiah to learn how to make a difference.  The reason is, there’s something inside of each of us that wants to make a difference.

One of the first things we learned is you start with a burden.  What breaks your heart that also breaks the heart of God?  For some it might be human trafficking, or child poverty, and for others illiteracy.  There are countless other causes of course.  But, to change the world it has to be YOUR burden, YOUR cause, YOUR sense of calling.

Next, you pray about it and seek the face of God asking what He would have you to do.  You look around for Him to point out others in your life that can help you in your dream after they see your passion.

Then, you must get clarity on what it is that you will do to make a difference.  What exactly is it you feel you must do?  If you can’t define it, you can’t do it.  Take it from something broad “I want to help poor people” to “I want to help these poor people that live here.”

Get your plan put together.  This is where the homework comes in.  You have to talk to people, read, listen to lectures, and go tour locations to come up with a strategy.  You don’t have to have the whole thing figured out, but what is your next step?  Don’t let yourself freeze up.  Get up and take the next step no matter how small it is today, then tomorrow take the next step, then the next, then the next and keep going.

John Wesley said, “Light yourself on fire and people will come from miles around to watch you burn.”  What can you get lit up about?  What passion do you have that stirs your soul?  Does it involve kids, youth, seniors, disabled, poor, ethnic, near or far away?  My challenge to you is find out what it is and get so on fire about it that it spreads and makes a difference.

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What Would Happen?

There are a few things that jump out at me when I am reading the book of Acts.  One is the frequency of prayer that is mentioned and another is commitment everyone had to the fellowship of believers.

Just like I’ve preached the past three weeks, prayer is communication with God and you just can’t replace that with anything else.  If you weren’t able to be with us for that series, it was called Sync-Up and is available on the podcast (www.crossroadsavon.com).

To think of replacing prayer, would be like substituting sports events for communication in your home.  Sure, going to activities can be fun, but after a while your soul craves connection and will look for it in other places.

It excites me to read of the total commitment that each of the people in the early church seemed to exemplify.  Scripture tells us they were “devoted”, were “all together”, met “every day” in the temple, and fellowshipped in their homes.  As a result of this kind of devotion, people were saved daily and added to their number.

What if we showed that kind of passion for the Lord’s Church by praying consistently and committing wholeheartedly to its purpose?  Maybe we wouldn’t have to worry about passing laws to keep people from doing wrong, perhaps people would be changed.  Let’s try it!

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